This is a very important up date for me to write. Yesterday, I received an email from one of our long time supporters. She mentioned seeing BUCK BRANNAMAN's movie where the orphan foal turned into an extremely dangerous horse that had to be put down. This colt was born oxygen deprived and no one knew how long he was without oxygen. She voiced some extremely valid concerns about orphan foals, and their proper handling.
So we wanted to clarify some things. We want to make sure that we are not deemed to be encouraging anyone to get a foal, put them in diapers and stick them in their house. Foals do not belong in the house, except in very rare cases. Normal, healthy foals should always remain in their natural environment, surrounded by horses who will teach them what they need to know.
However, the situation we deal with is not normal. The foals we care for normally come to us in critical condition. We do not solicit these foals, they are brought to us because we are one of the limited places that can provide this critical, round the clock care. They are often newborns, who are picked up the minute they hit the ground, or shortly thereafter. They are just as often a foal that has been left behind and rejected by the band, whether from a health issue or simply the fact that it has no mother. The first 24 hours are critical, and if you survive that, then it is the first 3 days, then the first week. Most conditions or diseases or internal problems that will/can be fatal will show up within 2 weeks. There are certain other issues that don't show up for 21 days. That is the basic initial timeline to try and get past.
Ideally, those of us who do this type of work would have a high end barn, where we would be able to control the climate at all times. Since everyone that I know that does this type of work is running on fumes, we have to come up with an alternative that provides a safe, sanitary, climate controlled "nursery" where we can monitor these foals 24/7. In the wild, the mare stays with her foal 24/7, providing warm milk continuously. The foal nurses at will, probably every hour to 2 hours for the first few days. They are provided warmth by the band, as often seen when the band is surrounding the babies in a storm.
The foals that we are brought have compromised immune systems. Being outside in the cold air can bring on pneumonia to a new foal in a heartbeat. Even healthy foals on the range can contract pneumonia during weather that fluctuates too much. Little Mister is an example of a foal that was most likely born compromised in some way, and he developed pneumonia because the weather was crazy the first two weeks of his life and fluctuated more than 40 degrees in a single day.
The foals that we care for literally require constant monitoring. There were numerous instances with Honey Bandit for instance. At one point his fever spiked from normal to bordering on deadly in a couple of minutes. It did not rise gradually, and if we had not been monitoring him at that precise time, or had been in the bathroom or the house making lunch, it could have been deadly. He was so close to having a temperature that would induce permanent brain damage, that if we would not have had the right medicine on hand and been there at that exact moment, he would have died. I cannot even count how many days he was cast, and if we had not helped him he would have died from that. Amazingly enough one day his brain re-wired itself enough to stop the casting and it hasn't occurred since. Rocky started colicking several times and started to roll. If he had been unattended, and left untreated, he could have twisted his gut and that would have been fatal. I know Susan (WWAR) also had to spend 24/7 and go the extra mile with her orphan Carson. He also had to have an iv and she had to administer the meds constantly. She would wrap up his iv and they would hold his meds while they took him for walks. Susan also had to give 24/7 care (literally) to Carson and she got so that she just held out a bucket when he had to urinate. We all do whatever it takes, but unfortunately I only "caught" Rocky in time once to use a bucket to catch it.
Their fluid intake, their temperature, their food intake, how much urine they are passing, not only the quantity of their fecal excrement, but the consistency, and frequency, as well as the odor, must be monitored with all the other signs and symptoms that may present themselves. The core temperature of a foal is one of the most crucial indicators of emergency care needed. You need to monitor the capillary rebound of their gums to help determine levels of hydration, and oxygenation. The color of their gums is critical, with a yellow tinge possibly indicating tetanus, jaundice or internal damage. Dark purple or dark red gums can indicate loss of oxygentation, liver failure, or kidney problems. There is a condition that is called the RH Factor that turns the gums deep purple or deep red, and it is often fatal, but is fairly rare and even more rare in wild horses. Tetanus indicators can be a foal jerking it's head to one side, the third eyelid protruding, yellowing of the eyes, their tail will be held to one side and they will flick it. They will be lethargic, almost in their own world and will often go stand in a corner as their brains start to shut down. Bright lights bother them, and they will startle at every noise. However, these symptoms independently of themselves, are often semi normal or normal behavior for a foal/newborn whose brain is still "wiring", so constant monitoring is crucial, as they can turn in a heartbeat. Once they have developed it past a certain degree, tetanus is 99.99% fatal, and a horrible death even when assisted. A foal that starts to roll is not normal, and can indicate colic, impactions, ulcers or other health issues. Dehydration can be deadly in a day.
When we bring a compromised foal to our home, we also need to make sure it is isolated from the other horses for 3 weeks minimum, and possibly 4. This is to protect not only our existing animals, but the compromised foal as well.
So this is the reason we take the steps that we take. Diapers on a foal is not only hideously expensive, but is tiring and hard work. When we share the
cute photos of the orphans in their diapers, we are simply trying to share a lighter moment. There is a lot of stress and anguish when you provide this kind of care for the foals that come in compromised. It is truly an honor and a gift to be able to do this type of work, but it also is a lot of work and involves a lot of heart ache. Our plan is to finish our "permanent nursery", where I will be able to care for the foals in an environment that is safe, clean and adequate, but will not require diapers. But the fact that Rocky came at the time he did is why we are doing the whole diaper thing. He needed help now, and that is what we do our best to provide. So please don't ever think that the foals wear diapers because it is cute, or fun, or we have them in the house for fun. FOALS ARE NOT TOYS, PUPPIES OR LITTLE THINGS TO PLAY WITH. They are extremely, excruciatingly fragile and we are trying to provide the absolute best care possible. If that means bringing them in the house, or using diapers until we raise enough funds to finish the nursery, then that is what we have to do.
Another point that was brought out, and very rightly so, was the fact that the foal in Buck's movie eventually had to be killed as it was inherently dangerous. Whether that was due to the brain damage from the lack of oxygen or due to improper handling, one will never know for sure. However, that is a perfect example of why we don't "spoil" them in the aspect that they are appropriately corrected when they do inappropriate things. What is cute when a little baby does it can be deadly if a 1000 pound horse does it. That is another reason that all of our foals are adapted into a normal "regular" horse environment at the earliest possible time. If you watch the wild horses, the mamas show no mercy if they need to correct their babies. Bad behavior is not tolerated and one of the reasons is that they need to know how to act and how to follow the direction of the band so they can remain safe in emergency situations. it is critical that they understand and respect space issues as well.
The adoption process with these foals is more involved due to the fact that they need someone that will spend the time that these foals need to continue their training. Their commitment needs to be 150%, as their are basic "baby" expenditures that must be covered, including but not limited to their vaccines and the supplements that these foals need until they are several years old. The commitment must be emotional, physical and monetary, and all these factors need to be considered when adopting a foal. We take time to make sure that the personalities match for safety also. There is nothing worse than having a horse that was adopted come back ruined and dangerous because the proper care was not made to make a good match in the beginning.
So in the case of our "critical foals", every tiny change in the foal's behavior, eating habits, the amounts or way they eliminate waste can be critical to knowing what they need.
There are many people who may not agree or want to save a baby that is in such critical shape. I respect that everyone may not feel the same, and would not ask that they support our work. However, I know that this is what God wants me to do, and I know He led me to Honey Bandit for a reason. That little horse fought harder than anyone to stay alive, and is doing well and extremely happy today. He has made a tremendous difference in this world and given people hope and helped us educate many of our future leaders about wild horses. If an animal is placed in front of me, whether it be the duck that flew into our tree in a storm, or someone brings me a foal, or kitten etc. that is injured or needs help or 24/7 care, I believe that I am supposed to do my utmost to help the animal, or at the very least help bring it comfort if God chooses to take that one.
These foals are tremendous amounts of work, not to mention the costs that are incurred. Life stops when we have these foals. You don't go anywhere or do anything else but make sure they survive one hour at a time. I have heard mention some of the caregivers are compensated for their time and efforts, and the truth is actually quite the opposite. Most folks that do rescue and side care for critters end up contributing funds from their own household to ensure that proper and adequate care are given to the sick and injured. It is not a "money making" operation, but nothing can compare with what a gift it is to be able to be involved in this.
The following are some of the expenses. The foals often need all or some of the following: electrolytes, tetanus toxoid injections, vaccines, antibiotics in many cases, foal lac pellets, foal lac powder, probiotics, biosponge, mezotrace, banamine, vaseline, enemas, blankets, wipes, gloves, ulcer guard, thermometers, electricity (for heaters running 24/7), electricity (24/7 washing and drying of towels and blankets) to keep everything sanitary.
Then you have the vet bills. A single bag of foal lac is about $100 in Nevada and just under $200 for the same size bag in California. (We are on our 3rd bag with Rocky, just to give you an idea of how much a hungry foal can go through, but we are blessed as a wild horse community to have help and support, financial and emotional, from the surrounding "rescue family" and all the supporters of this effort. It may take a village to raise a child, but it takes the world to save a foal.
I want to thank Anne so much for making me aware of the fact that we might not have been clear in why we do what we do, and worse than that, maybe sending the incorrect impression.
Without the combined efforts of committed care from all of the rescue groups, our job would be so much harder, if not completely impossible. The way everyone comes together and shares in the joys, the funding, the and the heartbreak is what makes this a success.
Thanks for all you do!
THANK YOU FROM ALL OF US!
Palomino & The Gang
Chilly Pepper - Miracle Mustang
Urgent Help Needed for a Registered Morgan Mare
FF Going For Gold aka Gold - Is a 1997 registered brown morgan mare. I was helping her owner place several horses this past year and this mare went to a wonderful home in the Sacramento area. However, due to some explosive issues there has been a couple injuries, including broken rib & kicked in the knee cap. Currently she is at a vet hospital being treated for a respiratory infection and will need to find a home when released. The current owner is unable to keep her in a sanctuary setting and this is what this mare needs. She is basically a feral mare. We would like to avoid putting her down and need a home where she can run free. She is halter broke and can be handled but any more pressure than that results in a blow up.
Unfortunately, Tom & I are trying to downsize and cannot take her. I have to move at least 10 horses out this year. Due to some increasing health issues on my part and Tom's shoulders giving out, we just can't continue at the rate we are and are closing down the rescue side at the ranch We will remain a sanctuary but will not replace horses as they leave us, whether naturally or rehomed. We will continue with our foster homes and assist people in placing their horses, as well as working with Palomino regarding the foals.
If you can help, or know anyone that might be able to give this gorgeous mare a forever home, please contact me. This is an urgent request, so please pass the info on.
Susan Pohlman, Founder/Director
Living Legends Wild Horse Sanctuary